FTC sues Amazon over Prime's ''dark patterns''

Emre Çitak
Jun 22, 2023

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken a significant step by filing a lawsuit against Amazon. The complaint accuses the e-commerce giant of using misleading user interface designs to trick millions of consumers into subscribing to its Prime service. The FTC also claims that Amazon made it difficult for users to cancel their memberships.

This legal action highlights the FTC's concern over practices that harm consumers through the use of manipulative tactics. The lawsuit follows a thorough investigation that involved testimonies from Amazon's founder and CEO. Let's delve deeper into the details.

FTC sues Amazon over Prime
The lawsuit alleges that Amazon used manipulative user interface designs

FTC sues Amazon over Prime

The FTC alleges that Amazon employed deceptive user interface designs, referred to as "dark patterns," to entice consumers into enrolling in automatically renewing Prime subscriptions. These designs deliberately misled users and made it easier to sign up for Prime than to cancel the subscription.

The complaint states that Amazon created a complicated and distracting cancellation process, which the FTC describes as a "labyrinthine" experience.

This process was intended to deter consumers from canceling their memberships.

How will it affect Amazon?

Amazon's Prime service plays a crucial role in its business strategy. With over 200 million paid subscribers in 2021, Prime generates substantial revenue for the company.

Amazon has invested heavily in original content and faster shipping to attract and retain subscribers. By offering benefits such as expedited shipping and exclusive content, Prime encourages customers to spend more time and money on Amazon's platforms. The FTC's lawsuit raises concerns about the tactics employed by Amazon to retain customers and the potential negative impact on consumer trust.

FTC sues Amazon over Prime
FTC claims that Amazon made it significantly more difficult for users to cancel their Prime memberships

Amazon's response

In response to the FTC's claims, Amazon issued a statement refuting the allegations and calling them false. The company expressed disappointment at the lack of prior notice before the lawsuit was filed, as they were engaging in discussions with FTC staff members. Amazon emphasized its commitment to presenting its case in court and refuted the FTC's assertions regarding the facts and the law.

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The outcome of this legal battle will determine the extent of the impact on Amazon and its Prime subscription service.

This lawsuit marks FTC Chair Lina Khan's first major legal action against Amazon. Khan gained attention in 2017 for an influential journal article that highlighted potential antitrust concerns related to Amazon's dominance in the market. Her involvement, in this case, reflects her continued focus on addressing issues surrounding tech platforms and competition.

As the lawsuit progresses, it will be interesting to observe the implications for Amazon and how it may influence future regulatory actions in the tech industry.


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  1. Anonymous said on June 25, 2023 at 11:48 pm

    I remember politely highlighting in a few adblocking communities the problem of Amazon abusing its position by favoring arbitrarily items in specific fields before being dismissed, blocked and banned as this was deemed legitimate and Mozilla had just been doing the same thing, probably triggering a fear of retaliation. It seems that the FTC is more sensitive about those issues.

  2. KarlsonD said on June 22, 2023 at 6:45 pm

    This article is day late & dollar short:

    A better explanation was already published yesterday @bleepingcomputer.com

    FTC: Amazon trapped millions into hard-to-cancel Prime memberships
    By Sergiu Gatlan
    June 21, 2023 11:35 AM

  3. Mike said on June 22, 2023 at 5:09 pm

    I still don’t see the big deal, because the cable companies have been doing this since dinosaurs roamed the earth. They pretty much wrote the book on it. But I know that cable companies in the USA are basically gangsters who own the government and get away with doing anything they want.

    At least there are alternatives to Amazon and pricing is competitive. Not so much for cable or Internet service.

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